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Getting Management Buy-in For KM #2

This is a continuation page for the story collection phase of this project. You can find full details of this project on the main project page.

Please add here your experiences of trying (and succeeding or failing) in getting management buy-in for a KM project, whether at senior level or at middle and operational level, using the contribution box below. All participants will receive the results of the research, which should be a range of practical approaches to use in getting management buy-in.

Many thanks!

7 Contributions


I told a story earlier about KM being over-delegated, where senior management time and attention simply could not be captured.

Here’s another example we’ve come across as consultants a number of times, where the sponsoring leader remains a mysterious figure behind a veil. There’s no direct contact with him/her, and the KM team are very inexperienced. It’s impossible to get to see him/her, for whatever reason.

So when we are in a technically demanding and complex area, like taxonomy development or portal specification, all the detailed analysis and advice we give is refracted through staff who only get a portion of it, and are not terribly good at explaining that.

Added to this, the sponsor has ideas of his/her own! So decisions are made which are radically different from the advice we give (not even contradictory, which would be simpler to deal with). In a complex project involving multiple activities, this “shadow play” can become extremely bizarre.

Posted on August 02, 2006 at 11:45 AM | Contribution permalink

I’m the knowledge manager at an Australian professional consulting company.

In April we started to get very good engagement for KM at a director’s conference which include other senior managers such as myself and the HR manager.

After the conference the HR manager had an action to re-develop the performance review process to address (amongst other things) the inclusion of knowledge sharing behaviour / discussion. The HR Manager and I had some subsequent discussion including me providing some suggested KM behaviours for different staff levels.

Last week, I found out indirectly that that work has gone ahead (and is about to be implemented in one part of the company). So I asked the HR manager whether I could see the current drafts. The response was “no, because you’ve got a very specific focus and you probably won’t see what you want to see” and “we’re keeping only a small group involved at this stage”.

I’m still not sure what’s going on here.

Posted on August 02, 2006 at 12:20 PM | Contribution permalink


I was reminded earlier this week of an event in 2000 when I was working for SMS consulting that demonstrated the dramatic and adverse impact that inappropriate management can have on a community of practice.

A small group of consultants interested in knowledge management had started meeting regularly and over several years the group had expanded to include members in all other SMS offices. While the company provided support in terms of facilities, beverages, food and permission, we were for a long time just tolerated rather than valued.  When the company realised that knowledge management had business potential and that their little CoP had developed methodologies, presentations, business development materials and had in fact completed a few projects, they decided to take this KM stuff seriously. So, they appointed a manager to ‘oversee’ the activities of the group. At his first meeting, the manager advised us to stop developing these materials and our new priorities were to be the development of a business case to justify our continued existence and a document development schedule. We were thrilled – NOT! As soon as we started making a difference we were to be diverted from work that contributed to our practice of KM. The next week most of the group didn’t turn up - same the week after. Fortunately, after a ‘either he goes or we go’ chat with the regional director, the new ‘oversight’ arrangements were removed.

Originally posted at http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2006/07/management_can.html

Posted on August 02, 2006 at 12:26 PM | Contribution permalink

I am an Australian public servant and from my experience it really does depent on the leader of the organisation.  The last Department I worked for had one particular Secretary who understood KM, actually knew Dave Snowden, and was a big fan of the use of story.  Consequently the words KM did not instill negativity in him.  The came a change of Secretary who was concerned about the lack of accountability and core business process in the organisation (and rightly so) and put all his energy into fixing these issues.  Combined with a manager who was a complete linear thinker and who was completely unable to understand any KM concepts (even after 9 months of continually trying to educate this person), the KM ideas have gone down the tube.
I am now working in a small Australian Government R&D organisation (48 staff) where KM is just part of everything you do everyday (yes this is KM nirvana).  This is all driven by an amazing leader (Executive Director) who speaks KM wherever he goes, in everything he writes and in everything he does - very inspiring, and the whole organisation follows suit.  He is the one who inspires the staff to KM thinking and acting.
I am not so sure that KM buy in is possible unless you can use KM to solve something that is burning your CEO.  Everytime I see it work it is a leadership issue combined with the passion and commitment of staff being lead effectively.
Just my 2 cents.

Posted on August 02, 2006 at 07:18 PM | Contribution permalink

John Roots

I work for a mid sized Local Council in Sydney. We Executive agreemnet for our KM program in 2001/02 as long as we didn’t call it Knowledge Management. Our small team is still progressing albeit very slowly with our “In the Know” program. We have had great success with activities that we combine within other projects. Mapping the flow of information within service delivery was a win for our EDMS implementation, and the replacement of our major accounting and asset systems. It was also used by the management team in redesigning our business and management plan reporting structure. We will shortly exist as an independent group in the organisation strusture that reports directly to the GM. On the down side, our management team do not formally accept KM as a one of the management disciplines in the organisationOur sponsor on the Ececutive Committee played an active part in promoting the KM initiative, but with her resignation in May this year, we’ve been had to rely on the GM, and KM is not high on his list. I believe we will have an active part to play going forward, but we’ll have to sell every initiative to each and every department and hope our timing will be such that they will have the resources available to work with us. SO lots and lots of work developing programs, plans, strategies, and selling to various managers. Hopefully over time we will get some wins which will lift our programs priority in the minds of managers, but until KM gets acknowledged as a management discipline in our Council, gets a place of its own in our management plan, and gets included as a deliverable in senior staff performance contracts, we will have to continue working away at the edges, and as a add-on within other programs. and projects.

Posted on September 10, 2006 at 07:11 AM | Contribution permalink


Here’s another one: big organization goes through a complete KM strategy process, with their CEO and senior management, including culture study, knowledge flows and collaboration study, high level knowledge assets audit, acknowledging that KM was about managing multiple forms of knowledge, from documents, to skills, to experience, etc etc.

They provide key input to (and endorse) a roadmap with different tracks according to their needs, covering infrastructure initiatives such as consistent policy framework, taxonomy, fostering collaboration through communities of practice, knowledge sharing through identifying critical knowledge sharing opportunities and setting up projects for them, etc etc. The CEO says very firmly, “KM is a critical enabler for our strategy”.

The project team was in the midst of planning their pilot projects, very neatly combining collaboration goals with knowledge sharing goals, which focussed on one of the organization’s key competencies.

The CEO says one day “our new Document Management System is not being used - we need to get all of the documents that are now in shared folders and team rooms into a single system.”

The KM team is told, “drop everything, including the knowledge sharing project, and focus on migrating the documents into this repository - you have five months”.

Everything they had presumably decided on the diversity of knowledge forms is dumped in favour of documents, and none of the policy proces and knowledge architecture stuff is in place. It’s like brain-wipes have happened across the senior management team, and the KM team - amazed, confused and frustrated - are being asked to create a document warehouse with no structure, no process for keeping it alive, in the face of probably universal opposition from the “owners” of the documents, which are entrenched and comfortable in their current environment.

Crazy, but true.

Posted on September 19, 2006 at 04:31 PM | Contribution permalink

The only way to get the management buy-in really and sustainably for KM is to support management to derive their current Knowledge Strategy first, before talking about KM. I have done that many times with business owners and their management teams in rather exciting workshops.
The Knowledge Strategy has to directly support the business owner’s most important business transformation, therefore it has to be focused on business-critical knowledge areas, which only the management team can define, e.g. in a knowledge portfolio for today and tommorrow for the business transformation.
Next for the most important knowledge areas the as-is states and the to-be objectives for knowledge quality in the very comprehensive perspective of knowledge depth, diffusion and codification have to be defined. This step allows to really leverage the main added-value of KM as a support discipline: coordinating and combining all “partial KM disciplines” like management of competencies, organization/processes and information.
Finally the knowledge objectives are translated into actions, which are prioritized to get that small number of most effective KM actions, which the organization can sustainably drive with enough energy from the management and the right resources.
The typical question of the business owner to the (meanwhile inter-disciplinary) KM team at the end of a Knowledge Strategy workshop : “Why don’t we have that yet? I need it urgently for my plans”. (Starting with a so-called KM initiative typically ends up with the business owners low-interest quote: “Yes, you can do it, but show the ROI soon”.

Posted on November 07, 2006 at 05:20 PM | Contribution permalink

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